I love my chooks. They are fascinating, entertaining and almost entirely useful. My husband thinks I'm a little chook mad, maybe because before we moved we had around 30 chooks! I've managed to tone it down a little and now have eleven. Very modest.
All my current chickens I have raised from purebred eggs. I wait till one of my hens is broody (wanting to sit on eggs and hatch them), then I get fertile eggs posted to me (amazing what you can get through the post!), and 21 days later (all going well) I have a bunch of fluffy little chicks running round.
The hen in the foreground is the only one I've named. I eat my surplus roosters and any hens that are too old, so I don't usually name them. Kinda weird to eat Henrietta/Sally/Maisy. But this one is a little different. She is distinguishable from her sister by the weird warty growth on her wattle. You can kind of see it in this picture. She is also the one that comes running up to me when I get anywhere near them and will eat things out of your hands. Her name is Griselda and she is a golden laced wyandotte.
The rooster you can see in the background is the only one I've kept from my last lot of chicks. I kept him thinking I might breed from him because he is so beautiful and big. He is a silver laced wyandotte. The hen next to him is a silver grey dorking and has five toes on each foot (this breed is meant to).
There is nothing like eating fresh eggs from chooks that aren't raised in teeny, tiny cages and that have a chance to eat greens and scratch for bugs. These are my eggs that I collected today. The white one is from my brown leghorn who is my little egg factory - she churns them out without missing a beat! The green one is from my lavender araucana and I'm not entirely sure who the others are from.
The other great thing from chickens is their poo. Smelly and a little gross but very useful. Fantastic fertiliser once it's been aged or put through your compost. I scoop up the untreated sawdust or hay or paper shreddings that I'm using for their nesting bedding which has been pooped all over and throw it on the compost.
I also intend to use their scratching skills for my garden this year. I want to build (or convince DH to build for me) a run that fits exactly over my raised beds (that I have yet to build) so that I can use a few of them to do the heavy digging and weed removal whenever I need them to.
Oh, and you can eat chickens to. I know this might not be every one's cup of tea, but I'm all about them having a good life but being useful right to the end. If they weren't useful I wouldn't keep them. And trust me, when you are woken up by five young roosters that have just discovered their lungs, you are running for the axe with no conscience whatsoever!
The one thing you really need for chickens is housing. If you don't have them properly housed for your situation you will have problems. They will poop on your doorstep. They will eat your veges. They will dig up your seedlings. They will get eaten by the next door neighbours dog. They will generally be a royal pain in the backside.
I have mine in a wire (including a roof because my chickens have always managed to fly even with clipped wings) enclosure about 4 metres x 4 metres. One corner has walls and a solid roof and then a wall out into the enclosure and perches so they have an open ended roosting house. Then I have four nesting boxes on the ground. We can put a sack barrow under each side of this enclosure and roll it to a new patch of grass every few days. It looks like a dog's breakfast but is very functional. I would like a few smaller ones that I could move by myself but for now this works.
Every afternoon, if I'm home, I let them out for an hour or two. They scratch around happily under our trees or in the grass. When I do build my garden I will have to fence it or they will scratch around happily in that too! I call them back into the house with some food and lock them up for the night.
I think I'll always have a few around. Here chook, chook, chook.